Discover the Enchanting Sounds of Egyptian Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover the enchanting sounds of Egyptian folk music, from the joyous celebrations of weddings and festivals to the more reflective songs of daily life.


Egyptian folk music is a genre of music that is rooted in the country’s culture and tradition. The music is a mix of Arabic, Mediterranean, and African influences. It is characterized by its use of traditional instruments, such as the oud, nay, and tabla. Egyptian folk music has a wide range of styles, from the festive and upbeat to the more reflective and introspective.

What is Egyptian folk music?

Egyptian folk music is a beautiful and unique blend of melodies, instruments, and rhythms that reflect the rich cultural heritage of Egypt. From the soulful strains of the mawwal to the lively beats of the dekkek, Egyptian folk music is sure to delight and enchant listeners of all ages.

The history of Egyptian folk music

Egyptian folk music is the happiness of the Nile Delta and the sadness of the Sahara Desert. It is the music of a people who have been both enslaved and free, a people who have known both war and peace. For centuries, Egyptian folk music has been an important part of the country’s culture, and it continues to be popular today.

The history of Egyptian folk music is long and complex, with influences from both native Egyptian traditions and outside sources. The earliest known examples of folk music date back to ancient Egypt, when songs were used in religious ceremonies or as entertainment at royal banquets. By the Middle Ages, Cairo had become a major center for Arab music, and Egyptian folk tunes began to incorporate elements from this new style.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Egypt was invaded by Napoleon’s troops and then by British soldiers, both of whom brought their own musical traditions with them. These outside influences helped to shape Egyptian folk music into the rich and varied form it is today. The 20th century saw the rise of Cairo’s nightclub scene, which gave birth to a new style of folk music known as sha’abi (urban). Sha’abi is characterized by its use of electric instruments and its focus on social issues.

Today, Cairo is home to many different types of folk music, from traditional tunes played on traditional instruments to modern sha’abi songs with a more contemporary sound. No matter what style you prefer, there’s sure to be an Egyptian folk tune that you’ll enjoy.

The instruments of Egyptian folk music

Egyptian folk music is based on the daily lives and culture of the people who live in Egypt. The music is passed down from generation to generation, and it is a reflection of the country’s history and heritage. The instruments used in Egyptian folk music include the oud, the nay, and the tabla.

The oud

The oud is a traditional string instrument used in Egyptian folk music. It has a pear-shaped body and a neck with twelve strings. The strings are divided into six courses, each with two strings tuned to the same pitch. The oud is played with a plectrum, or pick, and has a distinctive, mellow sound.

The instrument is thought to have originated in the Middle East, and its name may be derived from the Arabic word for wood, ‘awd. It is often used in traditional Arabic music, as well as in Egyptian folk music. The oud is also common in Greek and Turkish folk music.

Instrumentalists who play the oud often use a variety of techniques to produce different sounds, including plucking the strings with their fingers or using a plectrum. They may also use a bow, or ‘rebab’, which is similar to a violin bow. Egyptian folk musicians often accompany themselves on the oud while they sing or play other instruments.

If you’re interested in exploring the enchanting sounds of Egyptian folk music, be sure to check out our collection of traditional songs and tunes!

The nay

The nay is a flute-like instrument that is traditionally used in Egyptian folk music. It is made from a reed, and has a very distinctive sound. It is often used to play the melody in folk songs, and can also be used to create a very atmospheric soundscape.

The nay is usually played with the right hand, and the player blows into the end of the reed to create the sound. The left hand is used to cover or uncover holes in the side of the reed, which changes the pitch of the notes that are produced. The nay can be played using a variety of different techniques, and it is often used to improvise solos in folk songs.

The nay is an essential part of Egyptian folk music, and it is one of the most commonly used instruments in this genre. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating style of music, be sure to check out our other articles on Egyptian folk music!

The tabla

The tabla is a percussion instrument used in Egyptian folk music. It is played with two wooden sticks, one in each hand. The tabla is used to keep time and provide a rhythm for the other instruments to follow.

The sound of Egyptian folk music

Egyptian folk music has a distinctive sound that is immediately recognizable. The music is based on a wide variety of instruments, including the oud, tabla, and buzuq. Egyptian folk music is also known for its use of repetitive patterns and extended improvisations.

The maqam

The maqam is the principal element of Arabic music, and exists in various forms throughout the Arab world. Egyptian folk music is based on the maqam system, which consists of a set of scales with prescribed melodic modes. Each maqam has its own set of rules governing the melodic progression, ornamentation and rhythmic patterns.

Egyptian folk music is also characterized by its use of various percussion instruments, such as the tabla, darbuka and riq. These instruments are used to provide a rhythmic foundation for the melodies played on traditional folk instruments such as the oud and nay.

The enchanting sounds of Egyptian folk music will transport you to another world, and provide a fascinating insight into the country’s rich cultural heritage.

The rhythm

The rhythm of Egyptian folk music is usually based on a distinctive doubled beat, which gives it a very characteristic sound. This is often accomplished by clapping or playing drums, or by using a rebab, a type of bowed string instrument. Sometimes the doubled beat is created by different instruments playing different rhythms that interlock with each other. This can create a very complex and intriguing sound.


Egyptian folk music is a truly unique and special genre that is worth seeking out and exploring. With its rich history and diverse influences, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this style of music. So go ahead and give it a listen – you might just be pleasantly surprised!

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